Last week, we shared the story of the joint Anglo-Soviet invasion and occupation of Iran in 1941. The operation, which was planned just weeks after the Nazi invasion of Russia, was intended to open a land passage from the Persian Gulf into the U.S.S.R. through which vital Lend Lease military aid and war materiel could pass.
However, this “Persian Corridor” as it was known wasn’t the only route into war torn Russia. The Allies also established a vital but top secret air link from North America into the Soviet Union via the Bearing Strait. It was dubbed the Northern and Alaska-Siberian Air Route or “ALSIB” for short.
Just yesterday, a group of American vintage warplane buffs announced that they will mark the importance of this largely forgotten wartime aid route into Russia with a commemorative flight in 2014.
The BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation will retrace the historic the 6,000 mile air route through which as many as 8,000 American fighters and bombers were transferred to the Red Army Air Force between 1941 and 1945.
The re-enactors will pilot a pair of restored single-engine AT-6 trainers along the airborne highway, which ran up the west coast of North America, through Alaska and across the Bearing Strait into Siberia. The commemorative flight will begin in Great Falls, Montana and end in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
“Very few people have ever heard of this secret route and the transfer of warplanes to the Soviets who were waiting in Fairbanks to fly them on to Siberia,” said Jeff Geer, head of the BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation.
During the war, the U.S. military transferred thousands of planes including P-39 Aircobras, P-40 Warhawks, B-25 Mitchells and even some B-24 Liberators to the communists for use against Nazi Germany. A total of 5000 Airacobras alone were shuttled into the Soviet Union from American warplane factories and marshaling fields. For their part, the British and Canadians transferred nearly 3000 Hawker Hurricanes, 1300 Spitfires and even a number of De Havilland Mosquitoes via ship and other routes during the war.
Greer says his group’s 2014 flight will become part of a yet-to-be-produced documentary about the air route.
“We will be interviewing surviving veterans who participated in the ALSIB program, visiting museums and local newspaper archives, and flying the actual route to accurately tell this fascinating story to keep the history alive,” he said.
The public will also be able to track the flight in real time via the web using InFlightXT technology.
For more information, visit the Bravo 369 Foundation website at http://bravo369.net